‘Green Book’ Has Successful Start at Indie Box Office Before Wide Release

Willem Dafoe’s Van Gogh film “At Eternity’s Gate” also has strong limited opening

Before hitting the road on a nationwide release, Universal’s awards contender “Green Book” got warmed up with a limited opening on 25 screens that earned $313,000 this weekend and a per screen average of $12,250.

Stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are expected to be awards contenders for their performances as Italian-American bodyguard Tony Lip and jazz icon Dr. Don Shirley. “Green Book” follows the friendship that grew between the two men as Tony escorted Shirley on his tour through the Jim Crow South, using the titular “Green Book” to find hotels that African-Americans were allowed to stay in.

As it opens wide this Thanksgiving weekend, “Green Book” will face tough competition from a crowded slate, particularly from “Creed II,” which is expected by box office analysts to bring in the bulk of African-American moviegoers. Because of that, “Green Book” is estimated by trackers to make less than $10 million during the holiday weekend.

Universal is hoping that Mortensen and Ali’s crowd-pleasing performances will win over moviegoers the way they won over critics and festival audiences, sporting an 83 percent Rotten Tomatoes score and winning the Audience Prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. In limited release, the film seems well on its way to charming the masses as well with an A+ on CinemaScore. That could lead to strong word of mouth that helps “Green Book” last through the holiday season.

Another film that performed well in a standard four-screen limited release is CBS Films’ “At Eternity’s Gate,” which stars Willem Dafoe as the famed painter Vincent van Gogh. Directed by Julian Schnabel, the film had the best per screen average of the weekend with $23,000 and a total of $92,000 grossed. The film has a 74 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

Among holdovers, Fox Searchlight’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has reached a total of $5 million as it expands again to 555 theaters, grossing $880,000 in its fifth weekend. Amazon Studios’ “Beautiful Boy” crossed the $6 million mark in its sixth weekend by grossing $587,000 from 558 screens. Finally, Aviron Pictures’ true-story journalism biopic “A Private War” grossed $725,000 in its second weekend, but did so from 865 screens to earn a per screen average of just $838.